Sunday, June 14, 2009

"Academic Excellence" Praised, Not Practiced

Lake Placid Journal editor George Duncan has worked consistently to establish his reputation for putting out the sloppiest newspaper in Sun Coast Media Group -- which takes effort because he has only one day a week to make his mark. Old Word Wolf doesn't usually pick on typos (unless they're in display type), and only occasionally does she let careless but common grammatical errors elicit more than a private growl. Such admirable restraint (given the number of temptations) keeps her major focus, which is on the fundamental quality of local journalism, i.e., the job of actually reporting on the stuff that betters communities and makes democracy work.

And the Golden Sloppy Goes to ....

But this week's Lake Placid Journal effortlessly sets new records by which to measure the sloppiest editor in five counties. Duncan's page commits all his usual errors, but the irony of this edition's output rates a three-bark alert because Duncan uses his editorial to praise "Educational Excellence." (Now, who could argue with that? but I digress.) But why even bring it up, if our focus is on journalism, not typos? Because, at some point, readablity counts. Accuracy has always contributed to credibility. Duncan's constant harping on "left wing" this (bad), and "conservative" that (good), and "the main stream media" (bad, as if he's not one of the rivulets), and "liberalism" (worst of all) completely eroded his journalistic credibility by about his third edition. Today, we're simply going back to school -- in pursuit of excellence.

In one seven-paragraph opinion piece, Duncan commits nearly a dozen minor and six or seven major writing faults, not the least of which is a failure of fundamental logic. Our cheerful opinion maker leads by bemoaning "grade inflation" and cheerfully side steps over to Lake Placid Christian School where, he assures readers, no one would ever, ever, ever participate in such moral and academic bankruptcy. But Duncan's third graf about the graduation of the Class of 2009 makes it clear that something like a record number of academic awards were handed out in every major subject area. "LPCS students are clearly exceptional," the editor reports. Exceptional? Hmmmm. Now, about that grade-inflation lede, George.

But even that bit of community boosterism at the expense of actual coherence wouldn't have stirred OWW. It's the overall irony that infuses the page that sets her abarking.

Excellence -- particularly among newspaper editors who brazenly promote their own books on the boss's real estate -- includes the ability to spell the California governor's name correctly (or if you're not sure after all these years, the motivation to look it up), a willingness to adhere to the basic rules of English capitalization, recognize broken compounds, use commas in a consistent and conventional manner, understand the principles of subject-verb agreement, recognize and correct faulty tense shifts, and -- at a minimum -- save dear old Randy Ludacer from making a waterboarding joke in the letters column that says exactly the opposite of what he intended.

1 comment:

  1. We've been meaning to ask you to comment on this paper for months now. Glad you finally broke your silence. George Duncan is nearly illiterate except as a neo-con groupie and "proud of it." Those mystery murders he writes and promotes are awful, truly awful. I tried to read one, and couldn't get past the thrid page. You missed mention of this week's packaging of the scholarship brights with the obits on page 8. He's a piece of work -- and not a newspaper man.